Newly-discovered tropical tree is named after Leonardo DiCaprio

Straight out of HollyWOOD! Newly-discovered tropical tree is named in honour of Leonardo DiCaprio after he campaigned on Twitter to save a rainforest from logging

  • A newly-discovered tropical tree has been named after actor Leonardo DiCaprio
  • The 13ft-tall Uvariopsis dicaprio was discovered in the Ebo Forest in Cameroon
  • Hollywood A-lister had campaigned on Twitter to save rainforest from logging
  • He helped get a logging concession in Ebo Forest revoked with a series of tweets

A tropical tree that is new to science has been named after Leonardo DiCaprio — in recognition of his campaigning to save the rainforest where it was found.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said they wanted to honour the Hollywood actor for his help in petitioning against logging in Cameroon last year.

The 13ft (4 metre) tree, called Uvariopsis dicaprio, is the first plant species to be officially named in 2022.

It is from the ylang-ylang family, has large yellow-green flowers on its trunk and was discovered in the Ebo Forest in Cameron.

A tropical tree that is new to science has been named after Leonardo DiCaprio — in recognition of his campaigning to save the rainforest where it was found. Uvariopsis dicaprio is pictured

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said they wanted to honour the Hollywood actor for his help in petitioning against logging in Cameroon last year

KEW SCIENTISTS’ TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS FROM NEW PLANTS IN 2021

Scientists at Kew also selected their top 10 highlights from more than 200 plants and fungi officially named new to science in 2021 — from a killer tobacco plant to a ghost orchid that grows in complete darkness. 

– Nicotiana insecticida: a tobacco plant that snares and kills small insects on stick glands, which was collected beside a truck stop on Northwest Coastal Highway in Western Australia.

– Fusarium chuoi: a new species of microscopic fungus found growing within the seed of a wild banana from Vietnam at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, in Wakehurst, West Sussex.

– Some 16 new species of orchids from Madagascar were named, including a ‘ghost orchid’ – Didymoplexis stella-silvae – with star-like white flowers which grows in complete darkness and depends on fungi for its energy.

– Barleria thunbergiiflora: a beautiful blue Barleria was uncovered on an expedition to Angola, where it only grows at three sites in high elevation grasslands on Kalahari sands.

– Five new species of Cape primroses were named as new to science from the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Streptocarpus malachiticola, found in the mining region of Katanga growing on malachite.

– Ardisia pyrotechnica: a member of the primrose family named for its resemblance to an exploding firework when flowering, which grows up to 4m (13ft) tall and was found in the forest of Borneo where it is critically endangered due to the threat of palm oil plantations.

– Hydnellum nemorosum: a rare tooth fungus from the UK which was found growing in moss under a sweet chestnut in Windsor Great Park in 2008, the only known site it is found in Britain, and which was finally described as new to science in 2021.

– Philibertia woodii: a yellow-flowered periwinkle from the Andean valleys in Bolivia, which has egg-shaped kiwi-like fruits that are edible when roasted, flowers that attract butterflies, and the potential for medicinal value.

– Pseudohydrosme ebo, a pink voodoo lily with a flower spike that can reach 30cm (1ft). It is restricted to a small corner of the Ebo Forest in Cameroon. 

The species was given the name of the Oscar-winning actor and environmental activist after he took to social media in an effort, alongside conservation organisation Re:wild, to get a logging concession in the Ebo Forest revoked in February 2020. 

‘We very much appreciated the support Leo gave us in campaigning to protect Ebo last year so it seemed fitting to honour him in this way, naming a species unique only to this forest, after him,’ said Dr Martin Cheek, senior researcher in RBG Kew’s Africa team.

The 47-year-old actor is an avid climate change campaigner but has faced criticism in the past over his well-documented habit of jetting around the globe in carbon-polluting private jets. 

Despite this, DiCaprio claims that he is a ‘CarbonNeutral citizen’ after a London-based company planted thousands of trees in his name in Mexico to offset the carbon he produced.

Sources close to the actor have also claimed that he has begun to use more commercial flights, which produce fewer carbon emissions per passenger, than private flights. 

Ebo Forest is one of the largest intact rainforests in Cameroon, ancestral home to the Banen people, threatened gorillas, and the world’s only chimps known to both crack nuts and fish for termites.

It also provides a habitat for forest elephants and 75 threatened species of plant.

Experts from across the globe wrote a letter to the Cameroon government to highlight the precious animal and plant species at risk of extinction. 

The issue was then picked up by DiCaprio, whose social media posts to his millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram added momentum to the campaign.

In one he wrote: ‘Cameroon’s Ebo Forest, and all of the incredible animals that live there, are in trouble.

‘This includes forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees and so many others.

‘Let’s help #SaveEboForest.’ 

The cancellation of the concession by the president of Cameroon in August 2020 raised hopes that the wildlife found there can avoid extinction.

Dr Cheek said: ‘Had the logging concession gone ahead, we would have likely lost this species to timber extraction and slash-and-burn agriculture that usually follows logging concessions.’

However, Uvariopsis dicaprio is already assessed as critically endangered in the study that describes the species, published in the journal PeerJ.

That is because the forest in which it is found is unprotected, and the threat of logging, mining and the conversion of land to plantations continues.

Several of the species new to science that were named in 2021 are already extinct, and many are threatened, by deforestation, changes to the use of land and climate change, Kew warned.

Scientists at RBG Kew and their partners around the world, who study unknown species, assemble the data to provide evidence they are new to science, decide on names and publish them in scientific journals, named 205 plants and fungi from Africa, Asia, the Americas and even the UK in 2021.

Dr Cheek said many species — particularly in the tropics — remain without scientific names, making assessment of their extinction risk ‘near impossible’ and protection incredibly difficult.

 

DiCaprio’s social media posts to his millions of followers added momentum to the campaign

‘Sadly, several species in 2021’s list are already considered as under threat of extinction from increasing threats to their natural habitat, and three are already believed to be extinct in the wild.

‘This list is another reminder that this is our last chance to find unknown species, name them and hopefully protect them before they become globally extinct,’ he said.

Scientists at Kew also selected their top 10 highlights from more than 200 plants and fungi officially named new to science in 2021 — from a killer tobacco plant to a ghost orchid that grows in complete darkness. 

A new species of microscopic fungus found growing within the seed of a wild banana was also named in the top 10 highlights, along with a yellow-flowered periwinkle from the Andean valleys in Bolivia, which has egg-shaped kiwi-like fruits that are edible when roasted. 

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